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Friday, May 8, 2015

Salman convicted .... how will Nation do justice to Ravindra Patil, Police commando ?

Ravindra used to stay in Room 61 of Building number 3 at the Naigaon police quarters. A monthly rent of Rs 230 was deducted from his salary as rent for the 180-sq ft room.  Police constables who were colleagues of Ravindra Patil, on condition of anonymity, said that Patil had taken an emergency loan of Rs 70,000 in  2004, and another personal loan of Rs 34,300 in  2007 from the Police Co-operative Credit Society, Naigaon Police headquarters. As per the records, he had cleared only Rs 59,013 and still owed Rs 45,287 to the Co-operative Credit Society.  He died in chill penury in 2007 .........  do you know or identify this photo ?

In 1987, Mani Ratnam directed Nayakan starring Kamal Haasan was a hit.  It purportedly was  based on the real-life story of underworld don Varadaraja Mudaliar,  sympathetically depicting the struggle of South Indians living in Bombay.  Be it Nayakan or The Godfather and so many other films, the thin line to success is the rise of poor in the competitive World.  In one scene, a man would die in a car accident, to save the person who was about to be married, the hero would ask one of his henchmen to surrender posing as the ‘driver’ – poor can struggle in jail on payment of a few thousands – but not the rich, even when they commit any crime !

The staple of traditional Bollywood is the triumph of the underdog against the rich and the powerful, but in real life, when a hero is handed a punishment for a criminal offence of homicide,  the rich and famous stand  behind a drunken super rich man to slam the underdog.  A super hero under the influence of alcohol ran his costly vehicle on few hapless men sleeping on the pavement.  Thanks to an effete criminal justice system, he could drag the case for 13 years and play some legal tricks, but in the end, there was enough evidence for the court to declare him guilty and send him to jail for five years.

More than the judgement, what shocked the nation was the reaction of his lackeys and cronies from the film industry. Singer Abhijeet called the people who slept on the footpath “dogs” and said “roads don’t belong to the dads of the poor”. He went on to ask the poor on the footpaths in Mumbai to go back and sleep in their villages so that no vehicles will kill them.  Another, Farah khan somebody tweeted - It's like penalising a train driver because someone decided to cross the tracks and got killed in the bargain.#salmankhancase..... without ever realising that trains run on tracks, not on pavement and train drivers supposedly should not be drunk !  Rich and famous took to twitter expressing more or less similar meaning that Salman deserves sympathy; not for those who died and injured !

As it could happen, every aspect of the case was questioned, there was a chauffeur who obligingly claimed to have been at the wheels.   The best advice, I ever received is ‘never enjoy other’s discomfort’ – so, initially thought of not posting anything on Salman Khan episode – but this story in Midday of the man in first para  and in many other section of the Press did move me.

This case has haunted Salman for the longest time – 13 years and counting – is the 2002 hit-and-run case, where Khan’s SUV had rammed into the American Express Bakery in Mumbai, killing one pavement dweller and injuring four others.  The case has meandered through one level to another, and documents related to the case have been reported missing, a witness has died, and finally, in the last hearing of the case that took place a few days back, Salman had said that his driver was behind the wheel that night. 

~and there were not many who felt that Salman would indeed be pronounced guilty, though the Sessions Judge stood rock firm.   The strength of Khan's popularity was palpable in Mumbai  on the decision day – the social media and Press covered him only and perhaps even those who went under his car did not want him to be punished.   Many  pointed to his philanthropy as proof of his goodness. When Khan’s lawyers urged the court to look at Khan’s charity work and reduce the quantum of sentencing, it became clear why Khan’s charitable side had emerged precisely around the time that these criminal cases showed up. It’s a stupendous success for his PR campaign and a shameful moment for mainstream media, because he is still shown as hero !   There are fans, who perhaps could never see him, still feel him as a good person, for that is what they have been seeing on celluloid.

Is the Nation starved of role-models ?  of course, for the victims, compensation matters more than conviction but in a Civic society,  offenders have to be punished and there has to be equality.   Abdullah Rauf Shaikh, who lost a leg in the accident, is quoted as saying  "Nobody came to visit me in the last 13 years. I am forced to do petty jobs to support my family and face a lot of problems." "However, I have no hard feelings for him (Salman).I still watch his movies," he said, adding they were not pressurised by anyone. The wife of Nurullah Mehboob Sharif, who died in the accident, said, "We were told we will get a compensation of Rs 10 lakh, but what will we do of that amount at this time of inflation."  She said that she would be benefited if her son gets a job.

As some wrote, Salman’s conviction is the perfect opportunity to reiterate that Indian Kanoon isn’t Andha !  The court said that Khan was driving without a license and was under the influence of alcohol. The actor was driving back home (he lives in Galaxy Apartment at Bandstand in Bandra, Mumbai) late night on 28 September 2002, when he lost control of the SUV, drove on to a pavement outside a bakery in Bandra and killed one person and injured four others, in the process. He has been sentenced to a prison term of five years.

Khan's lawyers submitted the balance sheet of his charity Being Human in court and argued that the star had sponsored the heart surgeries of 600 children.  His lawyers also submitted a certificate in court which said that the actor suffered from “arteriovenus malformation in the setting of right trigeminal neuralgia” and pleaded for a light sentence on this basis; but Khan can continue doing two films at a time !  One argument which gained a fair amount of popularity was that he is a good man and hence should not go to jail. Justice Markandaya Katju argued that Dutt has through his film had revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of Gandhiji, the father of the nation.

Now getting back to the man in 1st para, Mid-day  had carried a series of reports on Patil’s declining health and his being diagnosed with the disease. The ailing cop spent his last days at the civic TB hospital in Sewri, where he died in 2007, penniless.  

Salman Khan's bodyguard [ it should be officer posted to accompany him !] , the late police constable Ravindra Patil, played a crucial role in the actor's conviction in the 2002 hit-and-run case. It was Patil who called police after the accident, and became the complainant against the actor.  Patil told the court that Khan was drunk at the time of the accident. He said he had asked the actor to drive slowly , but the actor didn't pay heed to his request,“ said the main investigating officer in the case, retired assistant commissioner of police Kishan Shengal. One bakery worker was killed. Police arrested the actor around eight hours later.

A young boy from Satara, Patil joined the Mumbai Police as a constable and was trained as a commando to join the Special Operations Squad (SOS) which has a primary duty of guarding VIPs. In, 2002, Patil was assigned duty as Salman’s bodyguard.   But Patil's last days were spent in the shadow of disease and despair. The last time when someone really considered Ravindra Patil as a “Human Being” was when he was fighting for life in a Municipal hospital, suffering from a strain of tuberculosis that was drug resistant. He was possibly coughing out his last breath on the cold hospital floor, alone.

In early 2002, Salman had filed a police report complaining about threatening calls from the underworld. The police concluded that there was a threat to the actor’s life.  So they appointed the then 24-year-old constable Ravindra Patil as Salman’s unarmed bodyguard, to shadow him everywhere. On that fateful night, Patil was still guarding him.   Patil, the only eye witness, decided Salman’s fate. Fast forward to 2007, when he was found on the streets of Mumbai, suffering from TB for over 2 years. His family, the police, the media, and even India’s most benevolent and kind actor - Salman Khan of Being Human fame - everyone had forgotten about him. Unsurprisingly, the film and glamour industry came out in full support of the star, from tweeting out in his defense to rushing  to his Bandra residence.

On the fateful night, Patil was travelling in the SUV with Salman behind wheels. Immediately after the accident, Salman vanished from the spot, while Patil rushed to the Bandra police station – to fulfill his duties as a citizen as well as a policeman – for the first information report (FIR).   As years passed, being a ‘prime witness’ in a high-profile case, Patil was removed from his duties as an SOS commando. People close to him maintained that Patil was under increasing pressure to retract his statement given to the police. Even though it was never revealed who was pressurising him, it was clear that tremendous pressure was being put on Patil – he was physically and mentally crumbling.   During the trial, it was clear to everyone, the only solid evidence that the police had, was Patil’s eye-witness account. There were a total of 27 witnesses in the case, but Patil was the prime witness who could turn the case around. However, when it was Patil’s turn to give his testimony in the court, he disappeared. Those close to him said that since he was isolated he did not have the courage to stand in the court. Many felt, that, it was the Mumbai Police which should have stood by him, ensured that being a prime witness and a policeman he should be protected. But, none of that happened and Patil continued to stay away from court.   In fact, when he disappeared, a missing complaint was also filed by his brother. Rumours started doing rounds that Patil was being pressurised to stay away from the trial.

Things took an ugly turn for Patil when the court did not appreciate the fact that he was staying away from the trial. His absence was delaying the already delayed trial. When the police were asked about Patil's whereabouts, the court was told that he had gone on leave without informing the department. Based on this information, the court issued a warrant against Patil and ordered the police to arrest him. Mumbai Police dealt a double whammy to Patil by dismissing him from service on the charges of going on leave without permission.

When Patil was finally found in a hotel in Mahabaleshwar, his very own department promptly arrested him and he was sent to jail. Here again, Patil may have never imagined that he would be arrested in the very case in which he was a complainant and had himself registered an FIR.  Ironically, when Patil finally deposed in the case in March 2006, he was still in jail. One can only imagine what must have gone through a policeman who is a trained commando but ended up in a dingy cell of Arthur Road jail in a case in which he is a prime witness. “It was Patil's testimony which helped in convicting Salman Khan on all charges and sentencing him to undergo five years imprisonment,” said public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat.

After being released from jail, Patil again went missing. No one, including his family, knew where he was. There are reports that he had gone to his mother’s place in Dhule district. In the interim period, he was dismissed from the police department. This meant that his salary was stopped and he was left without any job. He even reportedly got divorced from his wife after being released from jail. Patil later even claimed that his family had abandoned him.

In September 2007, months after he had gone missing, Patil was found in the Sewri TB hospital. Such was his physical condition that at first no one recognised him. He was reduced to a pile of bones and weighed a mere 30 kg. He was diagnosed  with a deadly type of TB with little hope of survival.  According to the hospital staff, Patil had reached the hospital in a pitiable condition and was unable to move or even speak. Patil had reportedly told the doctors that he was begging on the streets of Mumbai and had managed to collect Rs 50 to hire a cab to come to the hospital. He eventually lost the battle for life in Oct 2007. 

On Wednesday, the Sessions Court delivered justice to the victims of the accident, but, the deceased Patil still awaits justice. []

Khan, who was not required to be in court for Friday’s hearing, was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday for culpable homicide over the 2002 incident.  Today,  Khan’s lawyers cited the actor’s humanitarian work through his charity Being Human and an apparent neurological condition as grounds for suspension of the sentence, the Indian Express reported. A fan of the actor reportedly tried to commit suicide by consuming poison outside the courtroom, where a large group of protesters gathered to demand that his bail be denied. Another crowd of well-wishers congregated outside his home, meanwhile, and broke into celebrations upon hearing about the suspension.  And in a major relief for actor Salman Khan, his bail has been extended by the Bombay High Court today. He now has to surrender and furnish a fresh bail bond before the court.

Without even blinking to follow the Salman’s case and what would happen next, the real life incident of a tough police commando Ravindra Patil, makes a very sad reading ! – and that is the sole reason for me making a post on this ...

Feeling sad – yours truly.

8th May 2015.

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